‘Dr Death’ applies for discharge

2012-01-26 13:58

Cardiologist Wouter Basson today applied for his discharge on six charges of unprofessional conduct relating to his time as head of South Africa’s chemical and biological warfare programme.

Basson was not present for his hearing before a professional conduct committee of the Health Professions Council of South Africa, but legal argument continued in his absence in the Gauteng North High Court in Pretoria.

Jaap Cilliers (SC), appearing for Basson, argued no case had been made on which his client could be found guilty of unethical or unprofessional conduct.
Adding that his client was entitled to a discharge on all of the charges, Basson maintained he had acted as a soldier in a war.
His involvement as head of the apartheid government’s chemical and biological warfare programme had been aimed at developing a defensive capability for the South African defence force.

Cilliers argued that the two medical ethics experts who testified for the prosecution had contradicted each other, and that there was no evidence on which Basson could be convicted, unless he was called to the witness box and incriminated himself.

Cilliers argued that preference should be given to the evidence of Professor Jaap Cilliers, a local expert who had knowledge of the situation prevailing at the time and was of the opinion that Basson had not acted unethically.

He argued that the evidence of American expert Professor Steven Miles was based on extracts from the evidence in Basson’s criminal trial, some of which should never have been placed before him.
Miles was also an American with no knowledge of the situation and legislation prevailing at the time, Cilliers said.

Miles steadfastly maintained that Basson had unethically used his medical skills and knowledge when he participated in the large scale manufacturing.

Among these are tear-gasses and drugs such as ecstasy and Mandrax, armed mortars with tear gas. He also provided drugs for cross-border kidnapping operations and operatives with cyanide for suicide purposes, for use in case they were captured.

Pro forma prosecutor Salie Joubert argued that Basson had implicated himself in acting unprofessionally in both his plea explanation and in his evidence in his criminal trial, in which Basson was acquitted on charges ranging from murder to fraud.
Joubert said there were literally volumes of evidence against Basson which clearly showed he had transgressed all of the codes applicable to medical ethics.

Medical ethics in times of conflict were exactly the same as in times of peace and Basson had clearly used his medical office and knowledge in a way contrary to preserving and protecting human life, he said.
“He was not a minor player. He not only tested weapons. He went to the battlefield with weapons of his own design.

“He acted with utter disregard for human lives when he provided Scoline (an anaesthetic) for over-the-border grab operations.

“He acted as a traitor to his own soldiers when he provided them with cyanide capsules. You don’t just pop it into your mouth and die. It’s a terrible way to die,” Joubert said.

Joubert argued that there was enough evidence to convict Basson on four of the charges, and that it would be unfair to discharge him at this stage.

The committee was expected to rule on the application tomorrow morning.

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